I Remember Mama

big picture stuff

This is my mama,  Berniece Mae Thomas (née Gillihan), when she graduated from nursing school at the University of Missouri. This would have been about 1942 or 1943.

As I understand it, she and my dad had just been married, but they had done so secretly because she was afraid to tell her father about it. He hadn’t wanted her to go to college; it was a waste of money, you know, because she’d just get married. Of course, it was perfectly fine for her three brothers to go to college, but not a girl. And just before she graduated, she got married. Two other nursing students were her only witnesses.

She’d been able to go to college because she worked in a shop for a little while to save money, and also because her mother, born Verla Gertrude Greer, saved money for her so she could go, and so she went.

Grandma was a sweet lady who liked to read. When she was a girl she would climb trees with an armload of books so that she could read where no one could find her and make her stop reading to do chores.

Like a lot of country girls in her day she married when she was 16 — Grandpa was 18 — and she had no formal education after that. This is their wedding picture:

But she kept reading, and she always had a lot of books around. And she made sure her daughter got to go to college.

Anyway, Mama was a very good nurse and eventually became a teacher of nursing. Most of her career she worked as an obstetrics nurse in the same hospital in which I was born.

One of her favorite stories was about the time she had a mother in labor and couldn’t get the obstetrician to get off the golf course to deliver the baby. She made several phone calls to the golf club, and he wouldn’t come until he finished his game. Eventually she “caught” the baby herself. When the doctor finally showed up, he told the father that he would have been there but the dumb nurse hadn’t bothered to try to reach him. However, the husband had heard my mother making phone calls, and he told the doctor off.

Mama would want you to hear that story.

At her funeral in 2003, some silver-haired ladies came up to me to tell me she had been with them when they had their babies. One lady grabbed my hand and said that mama had noticed her baby had a malformation in his mouth that was keeping him from sucking properly; the doctors had missed it. Your mother saved my baby’s life, the woman said.

My mother had her quirks; for example, she ironed pajamas. She was leader of my Girl Scout troop and bravely took us on camping trips in spite of her terror of snakes, of which there are a lot in the Ozarks. I grew up listening to her records of Pearl Bailey and the Ink Spots. She was crazy about her grandchildren. She made the best pies. She drilled my brother and me on the multiplication tables — to no avail, in my case.

That’s what I’m remembering now.

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Keeping Up With the Calamities

Trump Maladministration

The s0-called president started his day at 8:26 am by tweeting threats to James Comey, a man he had just fired from his job as director of the FBI.

Now, it may very well be that Trump was not the first president to threaten someone to keep his mouth shut. But I believe he is the first one to do it so publicly.

The New York Times, backed up by NBC News, reported that Comey was summoned to the White House for dinner a week after the inauguration. And in that dinner conversation, Trump pushed Comey to declare his loyalty to Trump.

The conversation that night in January, Mr. Comey now believes, was a harbinger of his downfall this week as head of the F.B.I., according to two people who have heard his account of the dinner.

As they ate, the president and Mr. Comey made small talk about the election and the crowd sizes at Mr. Trump’s rallies. The president then turned the conversation to whether Mr. Comey would pledge his loyalty to him.

Mr. Comey declined to make that pledge. Instead, Mr. Comey has recounted to others, he told Mr. Trump that he would always be honest with him, but that he was not “reliable” in the conventional political sense.

In this, Comey was correct. FBI directors are supposed to operate independently of the president.

Here is Donald Trump’s version of the dinner, from his interview with Lester Holt:

HOLT: Let me ask you about your termination letter to Mr. Comey. You write, “I greatly appreciate you informing me on three separate occasions that I am not under investigation.” Why did you put that in there?

TRUMP: Because he told me that. I mean, he told me that.

HOLT: He told you, you weren’t under investigation with…

TRUMP: Yeah, and I…

HOLT: …regard to the Russian investigation.

TRUMP: …I’ve heard that — I’ve heard that from others. I think…

HOLT: Was it in a phone call? Did you meet face to face?

TRUMP: I had a dinner with him. He wanted to have dinner because he wanted to stay on. We had a very nice dinner at the White House…

HOLT: He — he asked…


TRUMP: …very early on. That dinner was arranged. I think he asked for the dinner.

And he wanted to stay on as the FBI head. And I said I’ll, you know, consider. We’ll see what happens.

But we had a very nice dinner. And at that time, he told you are not under investigation…

HOLT: That was…

TRUMP: …which I knew anyway.

HOLT: That was one meeting. When was the — when was the other two?

TRUMP: First of all, when you’re under investigation, you’re giving all sorts of documents and everything. I knew I wasn’t under. And I heard it was stated at the committee — at some committee level that I wasn’t, number one.

HOLT: So, that didn’t come directly from him.

TRUMP: Then, during a phone call, he said it. And then, during another phone call he said it.

So, he said it once at dinner and then he said it twice during phone calls.

HOLT: Did — did you call him?

TRUMP: In one case I called him and one case he called me.

HOLT: And did you ask am I under investigation?

TRUMP: I actually asked him, yes. I said if it’s possible, would you let me know am I under investigation. He said you are not under investigation.

Starting with the part about how Comey “asked” to have dinner at the White House, or somehow arranged for a White House dinner without being invited — I don’t think so. And, anyway, FBI directors are appointed to ten-year terms these days; it’s presumed they will stay in office through changes of administration unless they choose to leave.

I believe the only other FBI director to have been fired was William Sessions, by Bill Clinton. The circumstances were very different from Comey’s firing.

In 1993, Bill Clinton became the first US president to dismiss the head of the bureau. He did so after the Department of Justice produced a 161-page internal report with sworn testimony from more than 100 FBI agents citing the numerous and severe ethical failures of its director, William Sessions.

Clinton called Sessions twice the day he fired him — once to inform him he was dismissed and again to remind him his termination was effective immediately. He then held a press conference to explain his decision. He also had Louis Freeh lined up as a replacement.

Clinton’s moves are in dramatic contrast to President Donald Trump’s Tuesday dismissal of FBI Director James Comey, who was overseeing an investigation involving the president’s campaign.

The White House said that Trump relied on two brief letters of recommendation. One came from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a former campaign surrogate who had recused himself from investigations involving the Trump campaign but waded into the debate about Comey’s dismissal. Sessions’ deputy, Rod Rosenstein, wrote a lengthy memo detailing his concerns about Comey.

BTW, I want to share my Facebook friend Jeffrey F’s version of the Lester Holt interview:

I had beans three times for dinner. Well, actually it was one time for dinner. I open the beans and ate them. Somebody else actually opened the beans. I didn’t eat all the beans, but they were nice beans. You know that, I know that, everybody knows that. I’m not going to even consider eating beans unless they are the best, biggest beans out there. These were the best. The other two times I ate beans for dinner it was not actually dinner. It was breakfast, the one time. I didn’t actually eat the beans, but I was having breakfast and there was somebody else in room eating beans and I said “Those are nice beans.” And that was the second time. The third time I had beans for dinner was on vacation and I had finished lunch and then a waiter was carrying this amazing tray of beans into the room and the waiter says to me he says, “You really need to try these amazing beans.” And I said to him–and this is absolutely true–I said, “I already ate.” Extraordinary guy. Very smart. But there were the beans. So that’s three times. And you can ask anybody.

Brilliant. But Trump implies that he might have tapes of the conversations he had with Comey. And Comey had better keep his mouth shut, or those tapes will be played.

So now Washington is buzzing about tapes again. Reminds me of Nixon. Democrats in Congress are demanding that any tapes or documents related to Comey’s firing be turned over, btw.

The Independent reports that FBI employees are changing their social media photos to James Comey’s. Word is the FBI is pissed off. This is Vox:

It’s not often that you hear members of the FBI threatening to go to war with the president. But that’s where we are after Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey.

“[Trump] essentially declared war on a lot of people at the FBI,” an anonymous FBI official told the Washington Post. “I think there will be a concerted effort to respond over time in kind.”

Do read the whole thing at Vox; the FBI could do Trump a lot of damage.

It seems to me that in spite of his vast past experience of stiffing underlings, dodging lawsuits and doing business with the New York and Russian mobs, Trump is not very good at keeping his ass covered. Everything he does makes him look more guilty.

For example, this afternoon he had some lawyers trot out and proclaim that

his income tax returns do not show income from Russian sources or debt owed to Russians, with the exception of $95 million paid by a Russian billionaire for a Trump-owned estate in Florida and $12.2 million in payments in connection with holding the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow in 2013.

The statements are contained in a letter from two lawyers, Sheri A. Dillon and William F. Nelson, to Mr. Trump, which the White House released on Friday. The president cited the letter in an interview with Lester Holt of NBC News as proof that there were no hidden financial ties between him and Russia.

In addition to the Florida estate and the beauty pageant, the lawyers said Mr. Trump received undisclosed payments over 10 years from Russians for hotel rooms, rounds of golf, or Trump-licensed products, like wine, ties or mattresses.

These last payments wouldn’t have shown up on tax returns as coming from Russians, the lawyers say. So let’s see the tax returns, and let us make up our own minds.

Come to think of it, now that Trump is making claims about what his tax returns do or don’t say, wouldn’t that make it easier for some investigatory group to get a judge to subpoena them?

Finally, do read Charles Pierce, who reminds us that the three truest words in journalism are follow the money.

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The Perpetual Pandemonium Circus!

Trump Maladministration

Reviewing the news of the day, it strikes me how exhausting the so-called Trump Administration is. We’ve gone from No-Drama Obama to the Perpetual Pandemonium President. And this is particularly remarkable in that nothing unusually catastrophic is going on right now. The Donald is just one unforced error after another. My new name for him is The tRumpus.

Anyway … Today the tRumpus made yesterday look worse. Aaron Blake writes at WaPo:

In one fell swoop, Trump totally contradicted his three top spokespeople and offered a polar-opposite version of events than they had provided.

After they had spent the past 45 hours emphasizing that this was a decision Trump arrived at after receiving a memo and recommendation from Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, Trump just blurted out that he was going to fire Comey all along. Basically, he admitted the memo was a ruse and a political ploy.

This was today’s unforced error: Trump told NBC News’s Lester Holt that he had decided to fire Comey before he had received a memo from Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein. You’ll remember that yesterday’s story was that Trump fired Comey on Rosenstein’s recommendation.

Notice that Lester Holt didn’t trick Trump into admitting this. Trump just blurted it out. He can’t even keep his own stories straight.

It didn’t help that the Washington Post had reported earlier that Rosenstein had threatened to resign after realizing the decision to fire Comey was being pinned on him. The Wall Street Journal is reporting (source) that Rosenstein asked asked White House Counsel Don McGahn to “correct what he felt was an inaccurate depiction” of his involvement in Comey’s firing.

The Real Story, from several news sources, is that Trump had been growing increasingly agitated about Comey for not backing up the claim that Trump had been wiretapped by Obama, and also for Comey’s continued pursuit of the Russian hacking issue. And then last week when Comey said in testimony that he felt “mildly nauseous” about his possibly having affected the outcome of the election. Trump took that as a personal insult.

So Comey was unceremoniously dumped from his job only because Trump was pissed off at him, and he was dumped without even the grace of being asked to resign. And today Trump piled on by calling Comey a “showboat” and a “grandstander.” As in most things, Trump probably has no clue that this is not How These Things Are Done.

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats are considering a new kind of “nuclear option” if they feel they aren’t getting answers to What the Bleep Is Going On. Jeff Stein at Vox explains:

Unlike the House of Representatives, the Senate operates under what are called “unanimous consent” agreements. If Senate Democrats withhold their consent, the routine functioning of the body — from committee hearings to routine floor votes — could grind to an immediate halt.

“It would stop everything in the Senate and effectively shut it down,” said Josh Huder, a congressional scholar at Georgetown’s Government Affairs Institute. “If they go down this road, things could get pretty slow and ugly in the Senate.”

They haven’t decided to do this, mind you, but they’re seriously talking about it.

On top of that, this happened yesterday — Josh Marshall writes,

I wanted to add some context to one of the more surreal moments of this surreal day. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met first with Secretary of State Tillerson and then a short time later with President Trump in the Oval Office.  …

… Many also noted that while US press was barred from the meeting, Lavrov was allowed to bring the the Russian state news agency to photograph the event. …

…Foreign Ministers don’t usually meet with the President of the United States. I’m not saying it never happens. It does sometimes, especially if its the foreign minister of a major power, which of course Russia is. It also happens when there’s some particular business of importance to be hashed out. But Foreign Ministers generally meet with the Secretary of State, Defense Ministers meet the Defense Secretary, etc. It’s a rather straightforward matter of counterparts, parity and status. A Foreign Minister meeting with the President, particularly a chummy meeting in the Oval Office, is not standard procedure and generally signifies a warmness of relations between the two countries or some specific business to be hashed out. …

… According to Susan Glasser, Trump had the meeting because Putin asked and said it was important.

And the timing couldn’t be better, right? But today CNN reported that Trump was furious that the Russians published the photographs taken by the Russian photographer.

The White House did not anticipate that the Russian government would allow its state news agency to post photographs of an Oval Office meeting between President Donald Trump, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russia’s ambassador to the US, a White House official said.

Photos of Wednesday’s meeting, taken by a Russian state news media photographer one day after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey amid questions about possible Trump campaign collusion with Moscow, were ultimately posted by Russia’s news agency, TASS. …

… “They tricked us,” an angry White House official said.

“That’s the problem with the Russians — they lie,” the official added.
The Russians used the photos to troll the White House in its social media posts Wednesday. The Russian Foreign Ministry posted a photo of a smiling US President shaking hands with Lavrov on Twitter, adding strange and ironic optics to the questions already swirling around the White House over Comey’s firing.

I mean, what the bleep? Were these clowns born last week?

And this afternoon, the White House continued to dance in its own doo-doo by announcing that Comey’s firing will help bring the Russian investigation to an end. That’s supposed to be reassuring?

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How We’re Screwed Even More

Trump Maladministration

As soon as James Comey was fired yesterday, major media news outlets began comparing Trump’s actions to Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre.” I’m sure most of you remember that very well.

At the New York Times, Charles Savage reviews our options:

Can a ‘special prosecutor’ or an ‘independent counsel’ be appointed?

No, because the law that created that type of prosecutor expired.

Oh, damn, right. I had forgotten that. However, we can still have a “special counsel.”

What would the appointment of a ‘special counsel’ do?

This position dates to 1999, when the Justice Department issued new regulations to create it after the independent counsel law expired. Special counsels are empowered to run an investigation with greater autonomy than a United States attorney normally enjoys. The regulations say special counsels “shall not be subject to the day-to-day supervision of any official of the department.” A special counsel also generally decides on his or her own “whether and to what extent to inform or consult with the attorney general or others within the department about the conduct of his or her duties and responsibilities.”

Okay, but here’s the catch: Rod J. Rosenstein.

President Trump’s firing of the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, on Tuesday escalated calls among Democrats to appoint a special counsel to oversee the investigation into the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia, especially given Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who is overseeing that investigation, was also the face of Mr. Trump’s decision to fire Mr. Comey: The administration released a lengthy memo from Mr. Rosenstein recommending that Mr. Comey be removed, citing the way he handled the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state. …

… But if Mr. Rosenstein were to appoint one, the special counsel would still be ultimately subject to his control — and Mr. Trump’s. That means the special counsel’s decisions could be overruled, and he or she could be fired.

Oh, bleeping bleep. And, anyway, Mitch McConnell is standing by Trump and is against appointing an independent anything.

The Senate can continue investigations, although the result would simply be reports, not indictments. But that’s all we’ve got left.

As to why Trump suddenly fired Comey yesterday — the New York Times is reporting that Comey had just asked the Justice Department for “a significant increase in resources for the bureau’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the presidential election.”

Mr. Comey asked for the resources last week from Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, who also wrote the Justice Department’s memo that was used to justify the firing of Mr. Comey this week, the officials said.

You see the problem.

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Why Michael Flynn?

Trump Maladministration

As I was writing this I got a news flash that James Comey has been dismissed as FBI Director. I’m not sorry, but I am surprised. I’ll come back to this in a bit.

I’ve been really busy and only partly following yesterday’s hearings on Michael Flynn.  After reading about the testimony, however, I have three questions.

One: After all the warnings he received about Flynn, including one from President Obama himself, why did Trump go ahead and appoint Flynn?

This comment is from March:

On Thursday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked whether the Trump administration was aware of Flynn’s lobbying when he was selected to be national security adviser. “I don’t believe that that was known,” he said. On Friday, however, the Associated Press reported that the White House had confirmed that the Trump transition team knew before Inauguration Day that Flynn might be required to register as a foreign agent. In fact, on November  18, mere days after the 2016 election, Representative Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, wrote a letter to Vice President-Elect Mike Pence inquiring about Flynn’s ties to the Turkish government.

In fact, it would be laughable if Trump officials had not known, since a simple Google search could have tipped them off. On Election Day, Flynn published an op-ed in The Hill floridly praising Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a crucial ally against ISIS and calling for the U.S. to extradite Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish religious leader and former Erdogan ally who lives in the U.S., and whom Erdogan blamed for instigating a failed 2016 coup. Flynn complained that Barack Obama had kept Erdogan at arm’s length.

So it was well and widely suspected in Washington that Flynn was working for Turkey before he was appointed. Just as an aside, whether Turkey will remain a crucial ally is now questionable, since Trump is arming Syrian Kurds. But let’s go on …

Two: Why did Trump not fire Flynn sooner?

The former head of the US Department of Justice told Congress that she had warned the White House twice in January that Michael Flynn, the first national security adviser appointed by Donald Trump, could be blackmailed by Russia. …

… Mr Trump eventually fired Mr Flynn, a retired general who had previously been ousted as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, but allowed him to stay in his post for two weeks following Ms Yates’ initial warning. During those two weeks, Mr Flynn participated in sensitive discussions on Russia policy.

“Integrity” is an alien concept to Trump, so it’s possible he didn’t see Flynn’s compromised position as a big bleeping deal. Of course, it’s also possible there was more to Flynn’s role in the Trump campaign and administration than we know about yet.

And Three: Does anybody really believe Mike Pence didn’t know anything about Flynn’s, um, issues? Or, as Joy Reid put it, was Pence lying or is he incompetent? Seriously.

Getting back to Why Flynn — my Facebook friend Jeff Feldman wrote that the Trump administration was “without any interest in or awareness that law limits action in government. Instead, they seem to be acting with the assumption that they were free to do whatever they wanted.” And if anyone objected, they could just engage in endless litigation to keep consequences at bay. What Trump has always done, in other words.

And this may or may not mean that the Trumpettes are hiding anything in particular. “Rather than learn the rules and live by them, they identify the rules and seek to skirt them. Such an easy matter to just not hire Flynn. But no. You hire him and then climb aboard the good ship chicanery all the way to crazy bay,” Jeff F. wrote. Rules are for losers.

But now Comey is gone. WaPo says,

Earlier in the day, the FBI notified Congress that Comey misstated key findings involving the Hillary Clinton email investigation during testimony last week, saying that only a “small number’’ of emails had been forwarded to disgraced congressman Anthony Weiner, not the “hundreds and thousands’’ he’d claimed in his testimony.

The letter was sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, more than a week after Comey testified for hours in defense of his handling of the Clinton probe.

Of all things that might have pushed Trump’s buttons, I would not have thought that would do it. But this may be a sign that he’s realizing that his administration is absolutely bogged down in stupid scandals and unforced errors. Or, maybe there’s something else going on we don’t know about.

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More on the Kushner Family Business

Trump Maladministration

Josh Marshall has more on the Kushner family cash-in and their pitch to Chinese investors, including photo evidence that investors are being promised access to Trump.

You’ve probably heard that the Kushner family was caught over the weekend literally selling visas to immigrate to the United States in exchange for funding a $150 million dollar New Jersey real estate project. The sale itself is actually legal. It’s part of a highly controversial and widely abused program which provides visas to foreign nationals in exchange for $500,000 investments in US projects which by certain standards are judged to create jobs in impoverished or economically distressed parts of the United States. It’s become a widely abused vehicle for real estate developers looking to fund luxury development projects.

Whether Jersey City is “economically distressed” depends on who you are. There are a lot of luxury high-rise apartments there already. If you are looking for something cheaper, however, I found a 500 sq. foot third-floor walkup for a mere $1680 a month.

In other words, if you want to do something for Jersey City’s economically distressed residents, building another luxury high-rise ain’t it. That’s the biggest problem with living in the New York City area, actually. Middle- and lower-income people are squeezed to death because The Rent Is Too Damn High. Builders want to build luxury places to wealthy people, because they get more rent per square foot, and that’s all that gets built. Housing for everybody else can get downright squalid, if not nonexistent. The waiting lists for subsidized and low-cost housing are years long.

Trump – as well as the Kushner family’s connection to him – was explicitly invoked as the “key decision maker” in getting the visas. A Times reporter posted this picture of  the presentation to Twitter, which I’ve marked up to identify the people  in the slide …

You have to go to Talking Points Memo to see the photo, but it’s pretty damning.

This is needless to say, the most open and flagrant kind of monetizing of the Presidency – as bad as anyone could have imagined from the conjoined Trump/Kushner families. The fact that this ‘nationalist’, ‘crack down on illegal immigration’ White House is connected to cash for visas activities like this just adds a layer of oily crust to the corruption.

And that’s the stuff we know about. Reporters just happened to get wind of the Chinese presentation and showed up to cover it. How much are we not hearing about?

Let us not forget that Jared Kushner’s father served time in federal prison for illegal campaign contributions, tax evasion, and witness tampering. That doesn’t mean Kushner necessarily is dishonest himself, but it says something about Kushner family values.

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The Family That Grifts Together …

Trump Maladministration

The New York Times says the Kushner family is cashing in.

The Kushner Companies’ China roadshow, promoting $500,000 investments in New Jersey real estate as the path to a residency card in the United States, moved to Shanghai on Sunday after a similar pitch on Saturday in Beijing. Security was tighter in Shanghai than it had been in Beijing, where reporters for The New York Times and The Washington Post briefly attended the event before being kicked out.

And why were reporters kicked out? Raw Story explains.

Reporters alerted to the Bejing event, billed by host Chinese company Qiaowa in their brochures as “Invest $500,000 and immigrate to the United States,” were quickly ushered out as the event started and Kushner’s sister began her sales pitch.

According to the Post, reporters who had initially been seated at the very back of the ballroom were told they would have to leave by a public relations aide saying foreign reporters were disturbing the “stability” of the program. One reporter had their backpack and phone grabbed by an event organizer as reporters were blocked from asking event attendees questions as they exited the ballroom.

Asked why reporters were booted, a public relations aide stated, “This is not the story we want.”

A photograph of the reception desk at the Shanghai sales meeting shows Donald Trump’s photograph prominently displayed.

CNN Money reported:

Nicole Kushner Meyer, the sister of White House adviser and President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, spoke at an event in Beijing on Saturday. She was marketing a Kushner-owned property in New Jersey — invest in the development and get into the United States on a so-called EB-5 visa.

The EB-5 visa allows immigrants a path to a green card if they invest more than $500,000 in a project that creates jobs in the United States.

An ad for the event, held at a Ritz-Carlton hotel, said “Invest $500,000 and immigrate to the United States.”

The EB-5 visa has been used by the Trump and Kushner family businesses. Foreigners, particularly wealthy Chinese nationals, have used the EB-5 program as a ticket into the states. And that promise has helped attract foreign investments for U.S. real estate projects. …

… Lawmakers say the program essentially sells citizenship to high-income foreigners.

On Saturday, potential investors in the Kushner project were told they should act quickly because possible policy changes to the EB-5 program might raise the required minimum investment.

See also David Atkins, “Kushner’s Insane Chinese Corruption.

Here’s the New World Order, folks. Forget The Wall. The would-be Masters of the Universe just need money. National borders are no obstacle.

The Chinese were being asked to invest in a high-rise luxury apartment complex that would be in New Jersey. I believe this complex in Jersey City is the one they’re talking about. If I were an investor I would personally be concerned that luxury high-rise apartment complexes are being overbuilt; in Brooklyn they are going up faster than helium balloons. But Jersey City is an easy commute to Wall Street, so it might do very well.

For that matter, Jared Kushner himself bought a huge building in Brooklyn just last year that was once the headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses, which he intends to turn into a “classy” office complex.

More details from the Washington Post:

Among the wealthy elites in China, family, business and politics are all deeply intertwined. Every branch of the Communist Party, every province and city often operate as a fiefdom for those in power, allowing leaders special, lucrative access to policy, land and government contracts. There is even a name for second-generation sons and daughters of wealthy business executives and government officials — such as Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner — who have access to power through family ties. They are called “fuerdai.

The EB-5 immigrant investor visa program that Meyer discussed Saturday allows rich foreign investors who are willing to plunk down large investments in U.S. projects that create jobs to apply to immigrate to the United States.

Bloomberg News reported in March 2016 that the program has been used to the benefit both the Trump and Kushner family businesses. Before joining the White House, as chief executive of his family’s real estate company, Jared Kushner raised $50 million from Chinese EB-5 applicants for a Trump-branded apartment building in Jersey City, according to the report. …

… The program has been extremely popular among rich Chinese, who call it the “golden visa” and are eager to get their families — and their wealth — out of the country. The fact that some use it to move their money out illegally, however, has made the program unpopular with the Chinese authorities.

The program was launched with the goal of securing investment and creating jobs. But instead, in recent years, many real estate developers have used the program as a source of cheap financing by using foreign investors, especially from China, for flashy projects in Manhattan and other city centers.

Jared Kushner himself is said to have sold his interests in the Jersey City project to a “family trust” and is taking no part in the business investor visa program, WaPo says.

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The Meaning of the Word Work

Trump Maladministration

Ivanka Trump has published a book titled Women Who Work. It sounds perfectly vapid, but at least it’s inspired some gloriously snarky reviews. So it’s not a total loss.

Reviewer Jennifer Senior called the book a “strawberry milkshake of inspirational quotes.”

Self-actualization is the all-consuming preoccupation of “Women Who Work.” In this way, the book is not really offensive so much as witlessly derivative, endlessly recapitulating the wisdom of other, canonical self-help and business books — by Stephen Covey, Simon Sinek, Shawn Achor, Adam Grant. (Profiting handsomely off the hard work of others appears to be a signature Trumpian trait.) For a while, it reads like the best valedictorian speech ever. Pursue your passion! Make sure you, and not others, define success! Architect a life you love in order to fully realize your multidimensional self! …

…The book is manifestly the descendant of many TED talks and lifestyle websites. (“Women Who Work” was, in fact, the name of an initiative Trump started on her website, providing advice to working-girl millennials, before it became the title of this book.) It’s perfect for a generation weaned on Pinterest and goop.com — you can easily imagine its many pink-tinted pages appearing on Shoshanna’s manifestation board in “Girls.” In a crowded marketplace of freelance thought leaders and spiritualists, Trump, with her social-media following of millions, is carving her own niche as a glambition guru, with an explicit aim to “inspire and empower women to create the lives they want to live.”

This may come as a shock, but apparently this book is not flying off the shelves (/sarcasm).

Here’s a mashup of quotes from the reviews. My favorites:

“Trump’s book… is a grab-bag of generic work-life advice for upper-middle-class white women who need to ‘architect’ (a verb that pops up a lot) their lives. But underneath that, and perhaps more remarkable, is Trump’s inability to truly recognize how her own privileged upbringing was key to her success.”

“None of this is to say Ivanka hasn’t struggled over the last year and a half. ‘During extremely high-capacity times, like during the campaign, I went into survival mode: I worked and I was with my family; I didn’t do much else,” she writes. “Honestly, I wasn’t treating myself to a massage or making much time for self-care.'”

“I am happy to report that with this book, Trump has helped to level at least one playing field: Here is proof that a female CEO can write a business book that is just as bad — just as padded with bromides and widely-known examples and self-promotion and unexamined privilege and jargon — as one written by an overconfident male CEO.”

And here’s more, from NPR:

So it is for obvious reasons that the criticism leveled at Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In — that it was written for rich white women only — applies to this book as well. Invisible hands — nannies, drivers, security, and other paid help — make Trump’s lifestyle possible, but barely get a mention. In one of the rare references to her household staff, she writes, “Some of my best photos of the kids were taken by my nanny during the day (I’m sure in ten years I’ll convince myself I took them!).” …

… Trump’s lack of awareness, plus a habit of skimming from her sources, often results in spectacularly misapplied quotations — like one from Toni Morrison’s Beloved about the brutal psychological scars of slavery. “Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another,” is positioned in cute faux-handwritten capitals (and tagged #itwisewords) before a chapter on “working smarter.” In it, she asks: “Are you a slave to your time or the master of it? Despite your best intentions, it’s easy to be reactive and get caught up in returning calls, attending meetings, answering e-mails …”

So if anyone was hoping Ivanka might have a moderating or humanizing influence on her father … um, no.

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Republican Suicide Watch

Trump Maladministration

House Republicans just passed their newest version of the Soylent Green Act, a.k.a. the American Health Care Act or AHCA. (You know they’re losing their touch when they didn’t get “Job-Creating” or “Freedom” in that title anywhere.)

No Democrats voted for it. In fact, Democrats appeared … amused.

This bill is hugely unpopular, and if it becomes law it’s going to deliver a world of hurt. Fortunately, it’s going to be much harder to get the bill through the Senate.

No Democrats will vote for a bill to weaken a signature Democratic achievement. And while Senate Republicans are using complex rules to pass a bill with a 51-vote majority, they can only afford to lose two votes.

House Republicans were able to torture the policy into something that won enough votes from the far-right and centrist wings of their conference to pass it in the lower chamber. But the same problems are going to crop up again in the Senate, where a critical mass of senators have already voiced concerns about the bill.

The bill still cuts Medicaid by $800 billion and rolls back Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, which has covered millions of people in states represented by Republican senators. It is still expected to lead to upward of 20 million more Americans being uninsured. It still unwinds popular Obamacare protections for people with preexisting medical conditions.

And the way the House bill is written, it will reduce coverage for people who get their insurance from employers, too. And, one more time, the whole point of this exercise is to take billions of dollars out of health care to pay for tax cuts for the rich.

A couple of commentaries —

WaPo Editorial Board: Betrayal, carelessness, hypocrisy: The GOP health-care bill has it all

Paul Waldman: Every Republican who voted for this abomination must be held accountable

Add more links in the comments if you find some good ones.

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Maybe Trump Should Read His Own Book

Trump Maladministration

The Art of the Deal? The loser can’t negotiate with toast. He got rolled big time on the budget negotiations that keep the government operating until September. Don’t let him near any international treaties, or he’ll give away Oregon.


House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) secured nearly $5 billion in new domestic spending by exploiting disagreements between Trump and GOP lawmakers over spending priorities.

Democrats’ lopsided victory on the five-month deal, which is likely to be approved this week, means it will be very difficult — if not impossible — for the GOP to exert its will in future budget negotiations, including when it comes to Trump’s 2018 budget blueprint. …

… The extra money for domestic programs will now be that much harder to strip out of future budgets, and Trump’s priorities, such as money for a wall along the border with Mexico, could be more difficult to include. …

… In addition to the $5 billion in domestic spending, the bipartisan agreement released early Monday morning is packed with Democratic priorities, such as protection for funding for Planned Parenthood, a permanent extension of health care for coal miners and money to help Puerto Rico make up a projected shortfall in Medicaid.

In short, Trump’s budget cuts sleep with the fishes.

And since it worked so well this time, he’s already threatening a government shutdown in September if he doesn’t get what he wants.

The government spending deal just reached in Congress isn’t some enormous triumph of progressive politics, but with the exception of a boost in military spending it didn’t include many of Donald Trump’s various campaign promises or budget proposals. Since Trump himself is frequently disengaged with policy issues, it’s not entirely clear that he recognized this is what was happening while the dealmaking was taking place.

But once the deal was reached, coverage of it inevitably trickled out onto cable news, the president’s chosen source of political information. So it’s no surprise that he’s reacting somewhat defensively on Tuesday to the scale of his defeat.

On one level, his message is pretty banal — the right would make more progress in budget negotiations if Congress had even more Republicans. But he also threw in what looks like a surprising call for Republicans to take a tougher line next fall when this round of appropriations expires and threaten a government shutdown unless they get their way.

However, it’s unlikely conditions will be more favorable for Trump in September than they are now. If current trends continue his administration is likely to become more dysfunctional, not less, and what little honeymoon he had is now officially over.

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